Shades of Hemingway / Deja` Voodoo – Part 8, When in Rome… make lemonade

  Author’s note:  This is a continuation of a series.  For more information see, Shades of Hemingway and Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure.  

      Immediately I find myself back at the Hemingway Estate.  I am standing in the carriage house with the rider`s crop shoehorn in my hand.  Hem has just appeared out of the small bathroom in the corner wearing his robe and slippers, grinning broadly.

     “What does it all mean?”  I ask, looking at the object in my hand in disbelief.

     “It all connects, Sport, every little bit of it.”

     “The shoehorn originates from the Serengeti?”

     “That`s right, start from the beginning and connect the dots.”

     “Hem, which beginning?  Yours, mine or ours?   It`s too damn confusing!”

     Hem leans towards the entrance of the carriage house study and stands in the doorway.  After a moment he turns and beckons me to approach.  I walk over, stand beside him and look down.  There I am on the lawn.  I had just run out from the study and down the stairs, turned then realized that I still had the shoehorn clutched in my grasp.

     “Wish ya could have that time back?”  Hem looks me square in the face.  His usual grin has turned somber, his tone sensitive, almost kind.  “Do you wanna drop the whole thing on the lawn and just walk away with no one bein`the wiser?”

     I wondered if this was my chance to get out of it.  I felt myself on the verge of relenting, of saying I just wanted to go home and forget everything that had happened from that first meeting on.  But I didn`t.  Through it all I knew that even with my fretting and discomfort, I was doing something that no one else had done before.  In fact, I could easily distinguish my life and summarize it as having accomplished nothing prior to the incident before me.  I looked down at myself frozen in time, standing like a yard ornament holding up a trophy.  I turn and eye the famous face of America`s Nobel Prize winner.

     “Not on your life!”

     Hem nods approvingly and claps his hand on my shoulder, that trademark grin of his returning broader than ever.

     “Good!  Then quitcher goddamn bellyachin`and get serious on this, would ya?”

      I was convinced that with each passing hour Rachel was being raped, tortured and brainwashed with ancient chants of a wild voodoo variety by a myriad of half crazed followers of Lord Cristobal.  I had envisioned myself arriving with nick-of-time, Indiana Jones style heroics in the beginning.  But now I was bedridden and unable to charge in to the rescue.  No matter my insistence to the contrary, Naty and her family said I was in no condition to travel and kept me in bed.  At first I struggled against them but then finally resigned myself to the assumption that I was probably too late anyway based on what Sgt. Garcia had told me back at the hotel.  48 hours had nearly passed and I was no closer to finding Rachel.  Feeling lost and hopeless, I fell into a state of depression and troubled sleep.  I managed to rest and recuperate which slowly allowed me to regain my composure and bearings.  As the 3rd day since I set foot on Cuban soil dawned I felt better, not only physically but emotionally as well.  If Rachel was still alive, I am determined to find her and attempt to return us to the States.

     Naty Revuelta is a woman who appears resigned to her fate, living near her parents and helping to raise her dead sister`s children.  I could not imagine Naty living in Miami, having the freedom of being in the United States and yet forsaking it all to return to her native land under these circumstances.  I knew I could not change all the injustice in the world as did she.  But here was one thing, one small thing that she could make a  difference in and her accomplishment polarized me.  I felt torn between my rescue of Rachel and the deepening relationship I had begun with Naty.  Call it the Florence Nightingale effect, but through her efforts of caring for me, her cause started to become mine.

     Back in the 80`s the Freedom Flotilla brought thousands of Cuban refugees to the United States.  11 year old Naty was one of those that, with the help of her uncle and cousins, made the 90 mile effort to a new life in America.  Naty`s parents and younger sister would take another craft and follow them, or so they thought.  After Castro emptied his prisons and allowed criminals to depart declaring, “If America wants scum, we`ll give them scum!” he shut down Port Mariel.  Those who were not fortunate enough to grab the opportunity fast were forced to remain behind.  Talk about a cruel dictator…

     Naty did well in Miami with her relatives, adjusting to life in her new world but always maintaining contact with her family back in Cuba.  She worked and saved her money with the hope that one day she could buy transportation for them so they could join her in the land of the free.

     But Naty`s younger sister grew to up to be a beautiful woman, sought after and admired by men of every walk of life.  She started a relationship with a foreigner that was an import/exporter and bore his children, knowing he was a married man.  This man was a loose disciple of the Santeria faith and closely involved with Lord Cristobal.  When the sporadic relationship soured because her sister wanted more of a commitment along with the refinements of life that the man could provide, she was dismissed and another mistress was chosen.  Hurt, alone and unable to be consoled; she took her own life, leaving the little boy and girl behind to the care of her elderly parents.

     Despair is a large part of the lifestyle in Cuba, even after 40 years of Castro rule, little has changed as far as the progress of her people for a better life.  For example, each month bread rations and commodities are doled out to the poor by the government that boasts, “See how we are taking care of you!”  But these items come sparingly and must be stretched out in order to last the entire month.  This means the food supplies usually must be supplemented by the open markets that line the streets.  Electricity is a luxury in the rural areas which makes refrigeration hard and rare.  And with the majority of the populance living near poverty much of the ambiance of Cuba harkens back to Third world standards.

     As the morning progresses it is agreed that I can safely move about and Naty offers to take me to her home in Vinales, a small town back towards Havana.  Naty works as a housekeeper in a hotel nearby there.  She manages to have modern facilities, such as running water and electricity in her humble abode.  It is where her niece, nephew and usually her mother also reside.  Regrettably the house of Juan Revuelta does not have the luxuries I take for granted and I am well past needing a shower.  I readily accept her offer to travel with her mother and the children, leaving her father to his Spartan existence.

     Apparently Juan Revuelta was fairly well off before the revolution, working at a nearby villa as a grounds keeper for a tobacco plantation tycoon.  Later, the plantation owner was declared an enemy of the Revolution, removed and abruptly executed.  Stubbornly, Juan Revuelta squatted in a field house on the opposite side of the vast tobacco crop and the former owner`s villa.  He remained there as a permanent fixture to the plantation`s history that no one questioned.  Now the villa can be admired from afar as part of a tourist`s road trip of the fertile Vinales Valley. 

     A villa now occupied by none other than Lord Cristobal.

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One Response to “Shades of Hemingway / Deja` Voodoo – Part 8, When in Rome… make lemonade”

  1. Karen Says:

    Just came by to see how you’re doing. Hope all is well.

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